Sam Allardyce believes Sunderland can take advantage of Arsenal’s defensive vulnerability, as he plots a Stadium of Light upset this weekend.
Arsenal returned to third place in the Premier League table with a routine 2-0 victory over West Brom on Thursday night, yet the Gunners have stuttered over recent weeks - suffering Champions League and FA Cup elimination, while falling out of the title race.
Sunderland suffered two 3-1 defeats against the Gunners in league and cup at the Emirates earlier this season, yet on both occasions, the Black Cats were left ruing missed chances.
“Looking at their performance against West Brom, it was a comfortable win, but they have slipped up recently with a few draws,” said Allardyce.
“They almost lost at West Ham from 2-0 up.
“Crystal Palace played a very good counter-attacking game last weekend - as we did at Norwich - so that may be the way forward for us.
“We have to commit to nullifying Arsenal’s passing game. Then we have to see if we can counter-attack and expose some of the defensive weaknesses that they generally leave because of Arsene’s (Wenger) philosophy of attacking the opposition.
“That does sometimes leave a few extra spaces at the back to exploit.”
Sunderland’s hopes of finding the net will again largely rest on top scorer Jermain Defoe’s shoulders after the England international took his tally to 13 Premier League goals in last weekend’s 3-0 win at relegation rivals Norwich.
“He’s the man who scores more goals than anyone else and converts more chances than anyone else,” added Allardyce.
“The rest of the team have a responsibility to score and get chances for themselves, but they also know that he’s the main man for us when it comes to scoring goals.
“So they have so try to feed him in and around that box as much as you possibly can. The players know you have to play a certain way to get Jermain on the end of it.
“With 16 goals in all competitions this year, he’s proved to be very successful, but for Jermain to be the trump card, the team need to keep clean sheets. Then Jermain will be the hero.”